Would the outcome of the General Election have been different if the main party leaders were more charismatic? Perhaps Theresa May could have sold us her doomed manifesto more effectively with a spark of charisma? Or Corbyn could have brought more swing voters round to his left-wing vision? But as it was, many of us felt underwhelmed and uninspired by the pair of them!
Contrast May and Corbyn with the Scottish Conservatives' Ruth Davidson, who has captivated voters north of the border, winning the party their best share of the vote since 1979. Davidson managed to convince thousands of Scots to vote Conservative for the first time in years – maybe ever – all because of her personal brand of charisma.
But what is it, this magical and difficult to define quality that people are so drawn to; that makes them believe, follow and trust? Will the Theresa Mays and Jeremy Corbyns of this world ever have it? Can it be learned?
The dictionary definition of charisma is "compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others," while many experts in political science, psychology, and management reserve the term for a type of extraordinary leadership. And yes, some argue that charisma is an innate quality, or as the sociologist and philosopher Max Weber put it "not accessible to the ordinary person."
But less naturally charismatic individuals needn't lose heart, as others believe it is possible to become more charismatic, simply by understanding and learning the right behaviours. In fact, a study by University Lausanne Business School found that people who did a charisma training course were considered to be more charismatic afterwards. So, there's hope for us all!
Developing charisma is particularly useful for entrepreneurs, whether it's for winning customers, inspiring employees or charming investors. Fancy upping your charisma quota? Then try to adopt some of the following behaviours…
Charismatic individuals nearly always have a strong sense of purpose and believe passionately in what they're doing. So as an entrepreneur, make the most of the mission behind your business and don't be scared to express your passion for the change you're trying to bring about. This will immediately make you seem credible to those around you and convince them to buy into your vision.
It's often said of charismatic people that they make you feel like you are the only person in the room. So, when talking to others, make the effort to be truly engaged in what they're saying, rather than thinking about what to say next, or interrupting. Make eye contact and ask open-ended questions to show that you're interested and engaged in what others have to say.
The way you hold yourself and your physical gestures give away a lot of clues about your personality. To appear more charismatic, try to make yourself physically bigger, by using expressive hand and arm movements, holding yourself tall, even puffing out your chest – although not excessively! You need to 'command the room', as they say.
Your face can also be a big charisma sapper, so make sure you smile as much as possible, look interested and nod at all the right moments to show you're engaged in your companion. Research shows that people mimic the expressions of others so if you and your team are dealing with a stressful situation, try not to let this show on your face by grimacing or looking nervous. Instead, focus on maintaining a calm expression to show you're positive and in control.
When addressing a group, or even talking one to one, think about how you're delivering your message. Some of the most charismatic leaders are also fantastic storytellers, who use metaphors and analogies to engage and rouse their audience. So rather than simply saying things as they are, try to be more creative with your words and descriptions. It will make you seem more human, memorable and interesting to those around you.
Charismatic individuals are positive, confident and inspiring, so always communicate with as much passion and energy as you can. You can also inspire confidence by setting high standards and ambitious goals for both yourself and others, while conveying the unfaltering belief that these can be achieved.
Empathy is an extremely important element of charisma, showing that you understand the perspective and feelings of others. You can bring greater empathy into your communication style by using collective sentiments and 'we' rather than 'I' when you talk. So, phrases like: "I know how disappointed you all are because I feel exactly the same way," or "together, we will become the biggest and best in the UK."
Finally, there is nothing better at sending your audience or team to sleep than talking in a really monotonous voice. Charismatic speakers vary their intonation depending on what they are saying, as it keeps the audience interested and engaged – and this is equally true when talking one to one or in a small group. While changing how you speak is not necessarily that easy, presentation or voice coaching – or alternatively just practising in front of the mirror! - can help you to work on it.
Trying out these techniques may be nerve-wracking or strange to begin with, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Even the most natural, charismatic leaders have to put a lot of work into their presentation and delivery. There's no reason why the rest of us can't learn from their tricks!
Food for thought
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